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Justice Dept.: Metro makes progress on reforms

Reported by: Michelle Velez

Reported by: John Treanor
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Updated: 5/21 4:30 pm
LAS VEGAS (KSNV MyNews3.com) — The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department has “significantly revamped” its use-of-force training program for deputies and is now on the “cutting edge” of data-driven training, although there is “still room for growth … with respect to de-escalation training,” according to a report released today by the U.S. Department of Justice.

“LVMPD has made impressive progressive over the past year,” the report reads. “The number of (Officer Involved Shootings, or OIS’s) by LVMPD continues to be historically low thanks, in part, to a cascade of events over the past three years that include changes to policy, and increased training, scrutiny, and oversight of OIS’s by LVMP.”

Metro has initiated and completed 72 reforms during the past three years, but significant stumbling blocks remains, according to the report — the union that represents Metro officers.

“Notably, one of the incomplete reforms is outside of the purview of the department and addresses the Police Protective Association’s continued discouragement of officers involved in shootings to give interviews as part of the criminal investigation.”

The investigation by the Justice Department’s office of Community Oriented Policing Services comes after a year-long series of news accounts of officer involved shootings and the review process that followed them.

Metro submitted for review more than 500 documents and files, including investigative reports, internals bulletins and memos, training videos and lesson plans, attendance records, evaluation plans, policies, audio recordings of review board hearings and department manuals, according to the Justice Department report.

“Although the department does well in training officers to tactically de-escalate a situation, more focus could be given to verbal de-escalation skills for all officers,” the report says.

Investigators looked at Metro policy changes made in the aftermath of the December 2011 fatal shooting by officers of unarmed Gulf War veteran Stanley Gibson, whose widow, Rondha, received a $1.5 million from Metro after filing a federal civil rights lawsuit.

Police said Gibson refused commands to leave his vehicle and rammed a patrol car, periodically revving his car’s engine and spinning its tires. The shooting followed a failed police plan to get Gibson to leave the vehicle. Rondha Gibson contended that her husband suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. A Metro officer mistakenly thought he was being shot at and fired his rifle into the vehicle.

The Justice Department report lists rifle-use changes made in the aftermath of Gibson’s death. They include: officer awareness of the number of rifles deployed at the scene of an incident; deployment of a two-officer team consisting of a single rifle carrier and a cover officer to ensure security of a scene; regular updates of police dispatch about deployment locations; and notifications of area supervisors.

The full findings are being discussed today at a morning news conference. Follow News 3 and our website for more details.
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